Following Tuesday’s mercy-rule loss to Ceres – the first such loss in Mike Glines’ career – the Central Catholic baseball coach lingered in the dugout, contemplating his next move.
He decided to hand the ball to senior left-hander Matt Clark.
“If nothing else, he’ll compete,” said Glines, who clinched at least a piece of his 16th consecutive league title Monday with an extra-innings victory in Ceres.
If Glines needed any more assurance, it came Tuesday night via a phone call from Clark.
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“I just told him I’d be ready and that I wanted the ball,” said Clark. “He told me he was glad I called him.”
Glines was even more glad that Clark pitched well, leading the Raiders to a 6-3 victory, their second win in Ceres in the last three days.
“He wanted the ball and I knew he would,” Glines said. “He’s only started two or three times – he’s usually the guy who comes on in relief – but he told me ‘I’ve got 120 or 140 pitches in me … whatever you need.’ ”
Clark held the Bulldogs scoreless for 52/3 innings before surrendering two runs in the sixth and another in the seventh.
“He was going to finish no matter what,” Glines said. “I told him I didn’t care if he walked nine in a row, it was his game to finish.”
Glines had Tuesday’s starter, Brad Nightengale, warming in the bullpen, but he was earmarked for extra innings if Ceres had come back to tie the game.
The Bulldogs had the tying run at the plate in the seventh – due in part to Ryan Vierra losing a ball in the sun – but Clark induced a game-ending double play.
Though Vierra never touched the ball, and couldn’t be charged with an error, Glines pointed out that Vierra had his sunglasses propped on top of his cap’s visor.
“I was going to put them on the very next pitch,” said Vierra, who was able to poke fun at himself afterward. “I saw the ball off the bat, but when it hit the sun, I lost it.”
Not even that fazed Clark, who was instrumental in helping adjust the Raiders’ mental attitude.
“I thought we gave up when we got down by a couple of runs (Tuesday),” Clark said. “Right after school we had a meeting and we made sure that wouldn’t happen again.”
With the victory, the Raiders will play Wednesday at 4 p.m. against Cosumnes Oaks, the No. 2 team out of the Sierra Valley Conference. Ceres will play May 15 at 4 p.m. against Sierra of Manteca, the Valley Oak League’s No. 2 seed. Both games will be played at Tony Zupo Field in Lodi.
For the most part, the Bulldogs seemed perfectly happy with the second seed. The WAC co-champs posed for pictures with friends and family afterward and doused coach John Bussard with ice water.
“Our goal was to win the league title,” said Bussard, whose team accomplished that feat Tuesday. “We’re going into a tournament now, and no matter what seed we are, we’re going to face good teams and we’re going to have to beat good teams.
“It was such an emotional roller coaster over the last 48 hours, it would’ve taken a Herculean effort for my players to give anything more.”